There’s this feeling I can’t shake that I just have no right to be depressed. I finally got pregnant. My first pregnancy (despite complications) went to term. My son was born healthy and came home after a normal hospital stay. My job offered 6 weeks of paid leave. I was able to extend that leave to 10 weeks, and when I started working again it was from home and I still got to see my baby during the day.
Other women would kill for any one of these situations. And yet, here I am, thoroughly depressed. And do you know what makes it worse? Knowing these things. Thinking about these things and saying “I have no reason to be depressed” only makes the feelings worse, because chemical imbalances don’t double check with you first. They don’t look around and go “Oh, wait, this person has a pretty good situation, I don’t belong here” and then move along. They stay and fester and leave you looking at your situation and thinking “what the fuck is wrong with me?”
This idea of having no reason to be depressed or anxious is something that gets mentioned a lot in our group, and is something I often hear expressed by fellow moms. Personally, I think it also stems from the idea that upon pregnancy and childbirth, our lives TRULY begin, and any feelings that contradict the idea of this moment as being the pinnacle of our existence are frowned upon. But the truth is, it’s incredibly common for women who have just given birth to not feel immediately connected to their babies (I didn’t). It’s not uncommon for this lack of connection to go on for months, even (mine did). And all the while that it’s happening, the mom is feeling awful for it because she’s been told her entire life that the moment she looks at that precious little miracle, her heart will grow three sizes that day and she will never have felt anything like it before, and will never feel anything like it again. That’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a single moment that, in reality, could go any infinite number of ways.
So when other moms say “I have no right to be depressed” I imagine an unspoken “because I had ‘THE MOMENT’ which was supposed to be the highlight of my entire life, so from here on out everything is supposed to be sunshine and rainbows, and me being depressed is spitting in the face of my great purpose and flipping the universe the bird.” I am definitely guilty of it. Go back and read the first paragraph of this entry; I couldn’t stop myself from explaining why I understand that I am not justified in feeling depressed.
This contradiction of having a good life and still being depressed is a huge hurdle for me. It wriggles deep inside me and gets at the very roots of who I am and how I interpret the world around me. It has gotten far worse since I developed PMAD and have been dealing with it, and I now sometimes have difficulty trusting myself or my own perceptions, which in turn lowers my sense of self worth (since my opinion is clearly skewed and therefore has no value).
I have tried several methods of handling this contradiction with varied levels of success (and definitely levels of failure). I can say what does not work, though. The common advice that most depressed people have heard: “have you tried not being depressed?”
It turns out that was the secret all along! Depression is like fairies, and it only exists if we BELIEVE in it, but if we ignore it and don’t believe, it will die! WE’RE ALL CURED.
Yes I’ve tried not being depressed. I’ve tried when I feel this way to say “no I don’t” and act like that’s true. I’ve also tried to tell myself that I am not someone with depression, I am someone who has to entertain depression every now and then like the annoying cousin who comes to live with you for the summer. Guess how these methods work out? Not well, because if you refuse to look at depression and you refuse to acknowledge it and do something about it, then it just learns to function without you looking at it, and on its own terms. It becomes a wild beast that can’t be reasoned with who rampages through your life like Godzilla in Tokyo (see previous entry about how my Black Friday went).
Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for how to deal with these feelings. It’s something I am still struggling with regularly, and something that I will probably continue to struggle with for as long as I keep refusing to give myself any slack and just let myself feel crummy without judgement once in a while.